Monday

The Wisdom Cap Pilgrimage

The plumber came round on a Tuesday morning wearing a navy blue baseball cap with an image of a mountain and the word Wisdom on it. It really floated my boat to think that you could walk around with “wisdom” on your head so I had to find out how to get one.

The answer was simple: there’s a town called Wisdom in western Montana and they sell caps…

At the time, my ex and I were living somewhat precariously in Bozeman, Montana, trying to run a café. We had visa problems which were soon to ensure that we were forced to sell the café and move back to the UK. The whole story of how I got a visa in order to return to Montana, sell the café and get my beloved beagle, Didcot, home, have been told elsewhere in this blog. This is the story of the hat.

While I was living in Bozeman on my own, I was in such fear that I decided to set myself some goals to raise my spirits. The main one was to travel to Wisdom (I could do with some, I thought) and get myself a cap.

It wasn’t an easy journey; it was scorchingly hot for a start and my car didn’t have air conditioning. And the prairie dogs were more than usually suicidal on the smaller roads that led to this tiny place in the middle of one of the most beautiful nowheres in the world. But after a two-and-a-half-hour drive, I got there.

There were two questions that came into my head on arrival in Wisdom, Montana, the first being “where is it?” when I was standing in the middle of Main Street (Wisdom is very small). The second was “why on earth would anyone call this place Wisdom?”

The answer to the second one comes from the famous American explorers, Lewis and Clark. They actually named the three rivers in this area after attributes of Thomas Jefferson, the US president who had funded their trip. The locals however took a fairly dim view of rivers called Philosophy, Philanthropy and Wisdom and reverted to Beaverhead, Ruby and Big Hole. The town however kept the name Wisdom.

Be that as it may, I bought the cap. I was very pleased with it even though the assistant tried to point out that a cowboy hat would suit me better. They didn’t have “wisdom” written on them so I wasn’t interested.

Nine months later, when I was back in London and my ex and I were still together, he travelled to New York on a Gilbert and Sullivan exchange trip. He asked if he could borrow the cap to wear. I didn’t mind — though it didn’t suit him either. It was on that fateful trip that he met my successor and the marriage was over.

By the time I was compos-mentis enough to ask him if I could have the cap back, he had thrown it away.

Odd how much that hat meant to me. It wasn’t even a reminder of a time when I’d been happy but it meant something even if I couldn’t express what.

I tried several times to contact the shop where I’d bought the cap – searching the web and trying international directory enquiries but drew a blank. But something inside me wouldn’t let go.

The whole Montana thing, tied up with the end of the marriage, haunted me for years. It required lots of re-framing from “total, dismal, miserable failure” to “amazing adventure” but I made it in the end. It became a goal, a quest, a spiritual duty if you like, to recover completely both emotionally and financially so that I could go back to Montana with a clear heart even if it seemed to be for no other reason than that I’m a Taurean and I wanted my Wisdom, Montana cap back!

It took ten years until my heart and soul were cloudless enough to dare to hope that it could be done but the moment there was no pain left, I said, to my husband, Lion, “Can we go to Montana?” and last Fall we did just that.

We flew to Seattle (and someone had left two complete slices of cheesecake from the Cheesecake Factory in our motel room fridge as a welcoming present!). Then we drove across Washington, Oregon and Idaho and into Montana. It was so beautiful…

I thought I might cry as we crossed the border to the US state that my ex and I had loved beyond all reason and Lion made sure I’d got some Rescue Remedy to hand. As it was, I was fine; delighted to be back after 10 whole years and capable of being just as rude about the town of Butte…

Guess where we headed first? Yep, Wisdom. But would they have the baseball caps? Would the shop even be there? Would I be able to find it in this metropolis that had swelled to 114 people?

Yes, it was there on Main Street (still pretty much the only street) and it was such a rite of passage to return to that great outdoors shop and meander over to the shelf which held a small pile of baseball caps. They weren’t navy blue; they were green, but they had the very same mountain and the word “Wisdom” embroidered so what the heck? I put one on and turned to Lion grinning all over my face.

“They don’t usually suit you,” he said tactfully.

“I don’t care,” I said. “I got myself a Wisdom baseball cap.”

That’s it really. It was a pilgrimage. A rite of passage that was as important to me as climbing Mount Everest or trekking to the South Pole might be for others. I’d done it; full circle.

It wasn’t necessary but it was still terrific when, three days later, Lion turned to me on Bozeman Main Street and said, “Yes, I could live here. I can see why you loved it so much.”

And it was extraordinary to stand on that very street where my heart had felt so broken and filled with fear that I was in physical pain — and feel nothing but contentment.

The Americans call it closure. Sometimes you can get closure in the safety of your own home; sometimes it has to be done with a letter or a phone call. But sometimes it requires an adventure. And the call of that baseball cap was palpable.

You know something? The pilgrimage could never have happened if my ex hadn’t thrown that cap away. If I’d had it back all those years ago when we broke up, it would have gathered dust in a cupboard, loaded with the fears and resentments of a difficult time only to have been thrown out as a pain-filled memento. Instead it became a quest; part of a call to healing and, eventually, a fabulous three-week adventure across the Rockies with someone whom I love and who loves me deeply in return.

What’s the prosperity message here? Was I just seeking wisdom? Was it that I was searching for something that didn’t suit me?

Perhaps it is that a hideous final straw, like the casual throwing away of something that meant a lot to you by someone who doesn’t care any more, could be the starting point for your great healing adventure: maybe even the quest of your soul. So often I hear clients saying “I don’t know what I want.” To know what you want is incredibly important, even if what you want seems silly, like a Montana baseball cap. Behind that silliness will be something important that is calling and yearning and grieving.

Nowadays, I wear the cap out walking with the dog on sunny days. There’s a regular group of us who cross paths with our dogs in Moseley Bog. I’m writing this now because yesterday one of them said with a chuckle, “I like your cap. We could all do with some of that.”

“Thanks,” I said.

She nodded, “It looks good on you,” she said and, whistling to her dog, walked on.

For more pictures of Wisdom, Montana, visit my Facebook photos page

Wednesday

Re-born book! The Little Book of Prosperity.



Well here it is - the new/old baby. The Little Book of Prosperity, revised and updated for crunchier times and with a pretty new cover. It's 4000 words longer and actually smaller. The wonders of modern publishing!
I've spent today updating my website which, for me is a pretty darn amazing experience. And you can now buy the book online thanks to my sometimes frustrated, sometimes joyous efforts (I think a glass of wine will be appropriate tonight). The real book that is. It may take me a day or two more to work out how to put it up there for you to download!
Why am I doing my own website? Well because it's mine (Taurus!) and if I do it then it really has my energy on it rather than being designed by someone who may be brilliant but isn't me. I've seen a lot of websites that are flash and cute but just don't tell me anything about the owner. I guess I'm showing my age and my star sign here but it's also good for me to learn how to do new things. And once I'm up to speed, I can update it wherever I may be in the world.
Control freak? Moi?

Thursday

The Spiritual Law of Cleansing

Everything we experience is within us.

Spiritual work is often referred to as ‘remembering’ or as ‘peeling off the layers of an onion’ to get to the heart of ourselves. We can only do that if we believe that at the heart of ourselves there is something good. If we believe that we are evil to the core, we will be unwilling to go there — no matter how many holistic workshops we attend or spiritual books that we read.

I got there for a brief moment at the very beginning of my spiritual search but, even though I’ve spoken of that moment many times in discussions on grief or despair, it was nearly 20 years before I finally got it.

My first husband, Henry, had died just a few weeks earlier and already friends were saying ‘don’t cry’ when I wanted to howl so I was closing in on myself in the grief. I was miserable one evening so I decided to sit in the bath with a gin and tonic and allow myself the unhappiness instead of tying it up in a little bag and hiding it in my wardrobe.

I had to push it a bit because my ego was trained to control itself but, pretty soon I was weeping like a waterfall and sinking down and down into the darkness of fear, anguish and loss.

It was a long way down and parts of me kept saying, ‘might be a good idea to turn round now, Maggy!’ but I ignored them and went on digging that hole in my heart and my guts.

After about half an hour, just as I thought I might suffocate from lack of breath, everything stopped. The darkness became spangled with little lights and something gentle touched me with a soothing enquiry and — believe it or not — laughter.
I laughed in my rapidly cooling bath with my empty glass of gin and tonic and I knew that I was totally safe and happy to the core.

It was me in there. The Divine Me. Alive and blissful even at the height of my grief. And You are in there, right in the heart of You. It isn’t about going to an Ashram in India or to visit Deepak Chopra in San Diego (nice though that is), it’s about peeling away the coverings to you.

And if it were very, very hard to do, we’d all be doing it. The fact is that it’s slow and simple where we want swift and dramatic revelation.

So, the Spiritual Law of Cleansing is about gently wiping away the dirt to reveal the beauty underneath. But the all-important caveat is are you prepared to find perfection?

If you feel a bit uncomfortable about that, try not to worry; it takes a while to get there on a regular basis and the good news is that, as you get closer, it doesn’t seem quite so mad, bad or arrogant. And other people notice that your eyes get clearer and your life seems to be working out pretty well. They may even ask you the secret of your success. They're sure as heck never going to ask you for the secret of your failure...

Here’s the latest one that I’m using. See how you get on with it.

Imagine your psyche as an village with its own ocean harbour. Place great metal gates at the harbour mouth. Then look closely at the ships within your harbour. If there are any that are pollutants, or any that you don’t like the look of, visually move them outside the harbour gates and close the gates tight behind them tight. Say ‘not in my harbour.’

If the water in your harbour is not clean and clear then these ships have affected your psyche. Imagine a mountain behind the village, green and uninhabited. From its peak flies down an angelic presence with a grail full of holy water. The angel passes the grail to you to bless and pour into the harbour. You say words such as ‘by this holy water my harbour place is cleansed and healed’ and pour the water into the harbour. It is then cleared. This may not happen 100% at once but if you return several times you will find that the water will clear steadily.

You may also find that some of those ships creep back in. Send them away again.

This meditation can be extended throughout the village and the island itself with time (see my workshop The Quest of the Soul) but, for these purposes, stick with the harbour.

Once you are familiar with the visualization, every time you experience a thought that you don’t like or don’t want just say ‘not in my harbour’ and mentally push the thought outside your gates in the open sea.

For those of you who worry about the environment, this is not harming the planet; it is simply setting your boundaries. Negative thoughts, feelings and issues can only thrive if human beings give them attention. Stick that worry outside the harbour too!